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The court was tense today as jury ordered Trump to pay E. Jean Carroll $83.3 million


A New York jury today ordered former President Donald Trump to pay a total of $83.3 million to E. Jean Carroll for ruining her credibility as an advice columnist when he called her a liar after she accused him of sexual assault. NPR's Andrea Bernstein was in the courtroom. Hi, Andrea.


SHAPIRO: Tell us more about the jury's decision.

BERNSTEIN: So as the judge pointed out in his instructions to the jury, there was a trial last May where it was already established that Donald Trump sexually assaulted E. Jean Carroll and that he knew his statements calling her a liar when she went public were defamatory. So today, there were just three questions. No. 1, did Carroll suffer, quote, "more than normal damages" as a result of the statements Trump made from the White House in 2019? The answer was yes. If so, how much should she receive in compensatory damages - $18.3 million.

Question two and three were, did Trump act, quote, "maliciously, out of hatred, ill will or spite, vindictively or in wanton, reckless or willful disregard of Ms. Carroll's rights when he made statements on June 21 and 22 of 2019 from the White House?" The answer was also yes. And then to the question of how much she should be paid in punitive damages, the answer was $65 million. After the verdict was read, Carroll and her two main lawyers gave each other a long group hug, but Trump had already left the courthouse.

SHAPIRO: Tell us more about what it felt like in the courtroom as the verdict was read.

BERNSTEIN: So the verdict was pretty quiet. It capped a tense day. Trump had shown up late for court, and then minutes later, his lawyer, Alina Habba, tried to argue with the judge over a ruling that he had already made. When she kept speaking, Judge Kaplan said, Ms. Habba, you are on the verge of spending some time in the lockup. She sat down. You could practically see steam rising off the defense table.

So Carroll's lawyers started her closing. And just as she was saying that, quote, "Donald Trump has tried to normalize conduct that could hardly be more abnormal" and that Donald Trump acts as if the rules and laws don't apply to him, Donald Trump abruptly stood up and walked out, which the judge remarked on. He said, let the record reflect that Mr. Trump has left the courtroom. And he stayed out until his own lawyer started her arguments. And that whole outburst was noted again by Carroll's lawyers in their argument that only a big verdict could make Trump follow the rules.

SHAPIRO: What were the factors the jury considered in reaching this $83.3 million decision?

BERNSTEIN: So on the question of compensatory damages, Carroll's lawyers had shown how, after Donald Trump defamed her, she lost her advice column. She was unable to get TV invitations, except if she wanted to talk about Donald Trump. And she had a big loss in income. Now, Trump's lawyer said she became more famous from this, but Carroll's lawyers showed how Trump kept lying and lying about her, that he did it even after the verdict in the last trial.

In fact, he made a video that was played at the trial, which was after the last verdict, where he was still defaming Carroll. And they showed how he had used it to raise money for his presidential campaign. They said, think how disturbing that is. So the answer to the question of how much money it would take to stop Trump was 85 million. He had boasted about how much money he had. The jury was aware of that and it was used against him.

SHAPIRO: Well, just briefly, apart from leaving the room, did Trump have any reaction?

BERNSTEIN: Trump issued a statement saying he disagrees with the verdict. He will be appealing. Interestingly, however, he did not lie or call Ms. Carroll a hoax or a con job or say he never met her. None of that was in the post-verdict statement. So maybe the $83 million will mean something.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Andrea Bernstein. Thank you.

BERNSTEIN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Andrea Bernstein
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